Considering a Portable Generator? Don’t Forget the Transfer Switch

If you live in an older neighborhood, with overhead power lines and plenty of mature trees, power outages come with the territory. It’s no surprise that lots of folks here – myself included – own portable generators. Over the years, my generator has gotten a lot of use and has been well worth the investment I made in it.

While portable generators can offer a great deal of convenience, they’re not always a good substitute for good old-fashioned power from the utility. That’s because portable generators can’t simply plug into household electrical systems; this means you can’t power devices like your heating and air system or water heater, and you can’t supply power through outlets.

There is a solution that allows you to connect a generator to your home’s electrical system: It’s called a transfer switch, and a licensed electrician can install one on your electrical panel.

What is a transfer switch?

A transfer switch is an electrical switch that switches a load between two sources, such as between utility power and generator power. When utility power fails, a transfer switch will begin drawing power from the generator; when power is restored, the load will be switched back to the utility line.

Some transfer switches work automatically; these switches sense when a source has gained or lost power, and transfer accordingly. For example, a transfer switch could automatically switch from utility to generator power during an outage; it could also switch back when power is restored. Other transfer switches require an operator to manually choose between sources.

Switches ensure that power travels only when and where it’s supposed to go. This is important. Switches can allow you to run only select appliances on the generator, in order to avoid exceeding its power capacity. Switches also keep generator power from traveling backwards up the utility line; back-fed power can be greatly magnified and cause great harm to utility workers and surrounding properties.

Alternatives to transfer switches

Transfer switches, whether manual or automatic, let you choose between utility and generator power in an instant. But in order to provide this level of convenience, your licensed electrician will require some installation time.

Another option is the interlock kit. These devices are simpler than manual transfer switches, and require less time and cost to install. The only downside of interlock kits is that they take a few seconds longer to operate – a three-step instead of a one-step process.

Most of the folks in my neighborhood have opted for interlock kits over manual transfer switches. Generally speaking, we would rather spend a few extra seconds at our electrical panel than have to pay extra for an electrician’s time. Like me, they’re more than willing to pay for convenience during a power outage, but mind spending a few extra seconds to save a few bucks.

One thing is for certain: Whether you choose a transfer switch or an interlock, you’ll be ready to get through your next power outage in style.

Top 5 Home Additions for Improving your Living Space

There are plenty of great reasons to consider adding on to your home. Additions raise your property value, give you and your family more space, and can add valuable storage or living areas to your home. You could even add a suite that could be rented out to help raise additional income for you and your family.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to adding on to your home. We’ve collected our favorite types of home additions to showcase which ones add the most property value, space, and utility.

Here’s our list of the top 5 Home additions:

  1. Sun Room or Screened-In Room: Depending on what climate you live in, a sunroom or simply a screened-in porch can make an excellent addition to your home. You can entertain guests and enjoy the weather outdoors without having to fight off mosquitos and other bugs. If you’re in a colder area, a sunroom can be a fantastic alternative to a screened-in room, though it will cost significantly more to get glass put in. Unfortunately, sunrooms don’t raise property values too drastically, but if you aren’t planning on moving anytime soon, it could make for a wonderful plant room, or area for entertaining guests.
  2. Adding a Second Floor: If you don’t have room to expand your home outwards, you can add a ton of square footage by moving up instead. Adding a second story can be a lot to coordinate, you’ll need to check with city hall, draw up very precise plans, and make sure that your current structure is sound enough to hold a second story. In addition to all that, you’ll need to check out the rest of your neighborhood to make sure you’re not making your house look drastically different from the others, or you’ll have a hard time recouping any of the cost of adding a second story when it comes time to sell. Many people will add a second floor to a portion of the house rather than expanding the whole floor plan up another level. Adding a second story just over the garage is a popular option for many homes.
  3. Installing Solar Panels: This addition doesn’t add any square footage to your home, but in terms of utility, it’s probably the most important addition on this list. If your home is facing south, has plenty of sun exposure, and has sufficient area on the roof you could easily generate all of the power for your home through solar panels. In some cases you might even have enough excess to sell that power to the local power company and make some extra money on top of saving the money from your energy bills. There are many companies that can install solar panels on your roof, make sure you are getting one where you get to own the system. That way any excess energy can be sold and you’ll be entitled to any profits from it. Get off the grid and make some money while you’re at it!
  4. Expand Your Kitchen: The kitchen is the heart of the home, and some homes just don’t have quite enough kitchen to begin with. Expanding the kitchen is one of the most popular home additions and/or renovations. The extra storage provided is a godsend if you have a lot of kitchen appliances or cookware. It also gives your family a great place to hang out and spend time with each other over food. By extending an exterior wall in your kitchen by just 3 ft you can gain a ton of useful space to use however you see fit.
  5. Add a Second Bathroom: If you live in an older home, chances are it only has one bathroom or 1.5 bathrooms. Adding a second bathroom to your home, or even expanding the master bathroom to be more luxurious can be a huge selling point when potential buyers are looking at your home. This is one of the more utilitarian additions on our list, but it’s a huge plus for a lot of buyers. Turning a 3 Bedroom/1 Bathroom home into a 3 Bedroom/2 Bathroom home can seriously increase your property value, making it a worthwhile addition at any point in the life of your home.

These are our top choices when it comes to popular additions to homes. There are endless possibilities when it comes to additions, and most of them will increase your property value and enjoyment of your home.

If you are thinking about adding on to your home, get in touch with a general contractor in your area to put together a plan and get an estimate for your addition. Once you know what you want to do, you can go about getting permits and making it happen. Good luck with your additions and renovations!

Easy Housekeeping Tips For A Healthy Home

A Green Indoor Environment for a Healthy Home: How To Have Good Air Quality Inside the House

Many houses can be unhealthy due to wood smoke, mold, gas, pests, lead pipes or any number of other chemicals released into the air from everyday items. Indoor environmental pollution is usually related to the use of unhealthy materials in the home. Homes are filled with synthetic, man-made building materials, furnishings and cleaning products. Many of these things release pollutants into the air resulting in pollution indoors. A quick and easy way to help remove most of these pollutants is to schedule a whole-house carpet cleaning service, but if you aren’t able to do that, here are some tips for maintaining a healthy indoor environment.

Main Causes of Indoor Air Pollution

There are three main products in the home which stand out as large indoor polluters. These are manufactured wood products, carpets and combustion appliances. Damp environments within the home allow easy breading grounds for rodents, mites and roaches which all produce a separate range of pollution.

Poor air quality indoors may cause a range of health effects and therefore it is wise to eliminate some of the pollutions which may exist in the home. Individuals can make one of the biggest differences to the health of the indoor environment by not smoking indoors and not allowing dust or mold to build up.

Ventilation to Help Eliminate Indoor House Pollution

A home with good ventilation and good water drainage may help eliminate the build up of some pollutants. Ventilation can dilute the concentration of gases and also helps supply the home with fresh air to replace the oxygen that gets used up. Some form of mechanical ventilation may be required. Kitchen-range exhausts and bathroom exhaust fans will help to remove large amounts of excess moisture and pollution quickly. To help keep a healthy home, wash exhaust fans and range hoods regularly to ensure they are eliminating as much pollution as possible.

Ways to Improve Air Quality Indoors

Combustion particles from fireplaces, gas cookers or car exhausts are very small and can enter or leave the home very easily. To help maintain good air quality and reduce combustion gases, keep flues and chimneys clean, service heating and cooking appliances regularly and ensure insulation is not obstructing any ventilation in the walls or roof space.

To help reduce the build up of dirt and dust in carpets use a vacuum cleaner with high filter efficiency, preferably with mechanical pile agitation. Indoor plants may also help to improve the indoor environment. Insulated walls and ceilings helps to maintain a constant indoor temperature reducing the need for excess use of mechanical heating and cooling.

To help prevent unwanted pests and gases from entering the home, plug all gaps between kitchen units, doors and floors. It is also wise to not burn chemically treated, painted or varnished wood, indoors or out as the gases can be harmful. Place compost heaps well away from the home as they may attract unwanted vermin and also increase the number of fungal spores in the air.

A “green house” is a home that is energy and water efficient, has good indoor air quality and uses environmentally sustainable materials. There are many steps that can be taken to help keep the home indoor environment healthy for all occupants.


Building A DIY Greenhouse

In today’s times, more and more individuals are turning to farming and gardening to provide fresh, nutritional produce and food for their family and friends. With pesticides, chemicals, and other toxic substances becoming more prevalent in today’s society, and with the ever-present fear of GMOs (which aren’t necessarily a bad thing), you may be considering building your own greenhouse from scratch, so that you can grow beautiful, delicious food any time of the year.

One of the biggest benefits to creating your own greenhouse rather than planting outdoors is the fact that greenhouses maintain a constant temperature and climate inside, allowing you to grow fruit and vegetables that may otherwise be out of season and not able to be grown. This can allow you to grow healthy, leafy greens, and large, juicy fruit any time of year, without worrying about the heat, the cold, or the other environmental factors that affect seasonal produce.

There are some pretty basic steps for deciding on the greenhouse you want to build, and it all starts with the planning and foundation. This is the most important step of all, because choosing the correct style, size, and frame for your greenhouse is absolutely critical, and can determine the overall level of productivity and effectiveness of your building and produce growing. There are many different types of greenhouse styles, and each one is made specifically for a certain purpose or certain utilization. For example, if you want to grow a large quantity of an extensive range of fruits and vegetables, then you may want to invest in one of the larger types of greenhouses, such as a conventional post and rafter greenhouse. This greenhouse style is typically made out of glass, and provides a significant amount of support, so it can stand up to some of the toughest weather. This, along with the A-Frame structure, is one of the most common greenhouse designs. They both are very versatile and can be made in a large range of sizes. These are very straightforward designs and typically can encompass the majority of most gardener’s needs.


If you are looking for a more affordable, inexpensive greenhouse, and don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on material and other supplies, then you may want to invest in a Hoop House design. These are named after the appearance of the structures, and generally are made with a combination of PVC or aluminum pipes, covered in a layer of durable plastic covering, generally made of polymer. In some cases, you may also want to add an additional layer for more insulation, depending on your climate and produce you’re growing. In general, the construction of a Hoop House can be as low as $1 per square foot, and only cost a few hundred dollars total for the complete construction. You may want to consult a local contracting company to ensure that the materials you decide to use in your greenhouse structure are ideal for the climate and environment that you live in. Choosing a local company such as BNW Builders can allow you to ensure that your investments into your greenhouse system pay off in the long run and are durable and long-lasting.

Once you’ve decided on the overall shape and structure, and have done your research on choosing the best materials and supplies for the job, the next step is to purchase the products and get to installing! Many companies offer both the supplies for construction and an installation package, which can be perfect for those who want a personal greenhouse but don’t want to spend the time and effort on researching and constructing it themselves.

Here is a handy video on a DIY greenhouse you may want to check out:


Double v. Triple Pane Windows: Is the Difference Worth It?

If you’re thinking about replacing your windows, you’ve probably gathered that double pane windows are a better investment than single pane. With only one pane of glass, single pane windows offer no insulation against outside temperatures. Double pane windows, on the other hand, provide a layer of insulation that can keep out unwanted cold or heat; they will keep you comfortable while saving you a substantial amount of energy and money.

If two panes and better than one, perhaps you’re thinking that three window panes are better than two. And you would be right – to a point; triple pane windows do offer better performance than double pane. But is that enough to make triple pane windows the right choice for you and your home? Here the answer isn’t quite so clear-cut. Let’s compare some costs and benefits:

Energy Efficiency

Generally speaking, a triple pane window should be 20-30% more energy-efficient than a double pane window. That’s a substantial difference – but probably not one that’s going to greatly affect your energy bill; a difference like this is liable to yield an energy cost savings of around 2-3%.

As mentioned above, the difference between single and double pane windows is more compelling. Replacing single pane with double pane ENERGY STAR-certified windows would be expected to yield an energy bill savings of around 20-30%. If you live in an area prone to cold winters or hot summers (or both), your savings could be even greater.

Do keep in mind that windows vary in more ways than the number of panes. Window treatments and coatings play an important role in efficiency as well. Renewal by Andersen replacement windows, for example, features a coating called SmartSun; thanks to SmartSun, these dual pane windows are even more efficient than most triple pane windows.


Generally speaking, triple pane windows can cost a third more than double pane windows. Where a double pane window replacement costs $6000, a triple pane window replacement could cost $8000. If you’re saving $600 per year by upgrading from single to double pane windows, you’ll make back your investment in just 10 years; if you’re upgrading from single to triple pane windows, you should make back your investment in about 14 years.

A comparison between double and triple pane windows tells a different story. As indicated above, triple pane windows can cost thousands more than double panes. But the cost savings they yield will be only 2-3% of your energy bill; saving at this modest rate means it will take a long time to pay for the upgrade from double to triple panes.


Money isn’t the only consideration when it comes to windows; comfort is another. Imagine a snowy winter’s day. Old windows with poor insulation will be cold to the touch; this cold can create air currents – the drafts that can make us uncomfortable in winter. But windows with more insulation will not be as cold, and will not be as likely to create unwelcome drafts. Triple pane windows offer superior insulation, and will be able to keep you cozier and more comfortable.

Noise Reduction

If you’re trying to isolate yourself from exterior noise, replacing your windows can make a big difference. Relative to single pane windows, double and triple panes offer much better sound insulation. But again, there’s a much greater difference between single and double pane than between double and triple pane; if noise reduction is your goal, you’ll get little benefit upgrading from a double to a triple pane.

The Bottom Line

Replacing old single pane windows with energy-efficient double or triple pane windows will reduce your energy bills while increasing your comfort. Double pane windows can almost match the benefits provided by triple panes – but for substantially loss cost. Unless you are willing to pay additional thousands of dollars for even a modest benefit in efficiency and comfort, double pane windows are the smart choice.

5 Things to Do to Keep Your Garden and Plants Healthy

Just like humans and animals, plants can also get sick. There are different ways in which this can happen, but the most important thing to do, is to make sure you start off right. Buying healthy plants and making sure the conditions are not conducive to bacteria or virus growth, is your best way to go. There are things you can do to try and prevent disease spreading through your garden. Here’s what to do:

Don’t buy ‘bad’ plants. Educate yourself on what good plants, their roots, their leaves, etc. look like. If you know which things to look for in a healthy plant, you will be better able to avoid buying sick plants.

Fall is the time to clean up the garden. Many of your plants will most likely need some cleaning and pruning during the fall. Clean away dead leaves and stems and any other debris that could harbour diseases. Removing the dead parts is the best way to help prevent infestation or to control any existing diseases.

Use the right fertilizer for your plants and garden. If you use the wrong type of fertilizer, you could burn the roots of your plants. This reduces their ability to absorb water which in turn makes the plants vulnerable for disease and stress. Plants that are under stress are easy to infect. Approach professionals to help you determine what type of fertilizer will be best for your soil and your plants.

Monitor your plants for insect activity. Damage caused by insects can promote infestation of viruses or diseases. These bad elements need an entry into the plant and insect damage gives them that. Keep an eye on the insect activity in and around your plants and make sure that they are not opening doors for disease.

Water the plants properly. All plants don’t need the same amount of water and how you water them is very important. Try using methods that doesn’t wet the foliage too much as this makes the plant vulnerable to disease. Try and only water the roots and use sprinkling or trickling methods of watering.

Follow these simple things to help keep your garden healthy.

5 Tips for Cleaning Your Home Exterior and Start Spring Fresh

Winter is the time when we all just move from warm interior to warm interior. Most of us hardly take a look at what is going on outside our homes. When spring comes, it is the best time to start paying attention and cleaning up the outside of your house. It will be fun and enjoyable to be outside in mild temperatures while doing some basic cleaning up and repairs.

Do a visual roof inspection – Roof repairs is not something that should be taken on by just anyone. You can do an inspection to see if there are any loose shingles, tiles, or other parts that show possible damage. If you feel that repairs are needed, phone the professionals with the safety equipment.

Trim overgrowth – Overgrowth can also be dangerous if left unattended. Not only can it lead to added moisture or raccoons and squirrels nesting in the roof or attic, but it also presents a fall danger if it becomes heavy to one side. Spring is a great time to do trimming as you can still see the individual bare branches.

Inspect and clean foundation vents – Houses that have basements or crawl spaces tend to have foundation windows for ventilation. These vents are places where leaves, mud, and other debris can get caught very quickly. If they become damaged, it could be the way in for rodents and other pests. Clean out and repair these vents to make sure that no unwanted visitors can enter.

Clean the gutters – This is a very important job as it ensures that you don’t get stagnant water which can breed unwanted insects and diseases. It can also cause damage to your roof. By cleaning your gutters regularly, you can prevent damage and ensure the integrity of your home.

Spruce up the paint – It is important to scrape and redo paint where it is peeling or exposing wood. Exposed wood can rot quickly and cause a lot of problems. Use a pressure hose to clean off the outside of your house. This will show where a new layer of paint is needed to protect the surface and look good again.

These simple tasks shouldn’t take too long and will give you some much-needed time outdoors.

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal

If you are looking to make your home stand out or just want to make it look nice for yourself, you should consider improving the curb appeal through some of our tips to follow. Some of these ideas you can do yourself but others you should consider hiring a professional landscaping and home exterior improvement company. Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Use symmetry to invite people in. Symmetry is pleasing to the eye and you will often see this technique used by interior designers. Use it on the outside of your house to create a beautiful and pleasing entry to your home. You can play around with plants, lights, mats, etc.
  2. Make an impression with the front door. Paint your front door a bright color and add some trimmings that reflect your style and personality. If the front door is striking and inviting, people will want to see the inside as well.
  3. Create a garden in no time. Plants on your porch and walkway can be very pretty and inviting. Creating this garden is very easy. All you need to do is buy some ready-planted flowers or planters and seeds and you will soon have your own Eden.
  4. Consider some landscape lights. Add interesting and functional lighting to your garden to improve your home’s curb appeal. There are many different options from fairy lights in trees to waist-height lamps and even LED or solar lights. Speak to your local landscape company to find out what your options are and what will be required for wiring, etc.
  5. Build and install window boxes. Window boxes add charm and color to your home’s exterior. You can plant some colourful flowers in these boxes or add ornaments that you like. You can paint them with interesting and colourful patterns to suit the inside and outside of your home.

If you are looking to make some changes to improve your home’s curb appeal, consider some of these. Creativity is key and always remember to add some of your own personality and style.

Tips for Keeping Your Landscaped Garden Looking Good

Landscaping services can be very costly. No matter whether you hire someone or do it yourself, it will have some expenses. To make sure that your money was well-spent, you want to maintain the garden and its features. If you don’t, you will just be wasting your money. Today, we would like to share some tips that can help you keep your landscaped garden neat and looking good.

Clean the garden daily – This may sound like overkill, but it is necessary especially during the fall and winter months. Falling leaves and other dirt and debris will collect and become harder to clean if you leave it. Cleaning the garden every day will help prevent this piling up of debris and also give you some exercise.

Water your plants and lawn correctly – Different plants require different amounts of water and also need water with different frequencies. You should know your plants and know what their watering requirements are. You should also water your lawn with the right amount of water and at the right time. Too much water can be just as damaging as too little water.

Inspect your plants – You should regularly inspect your plants for signs of disease or decay. If you notice the problem soon enough, you may be able to save the infected plant. You will also be able to prevent it from spreading to other plants and causing a bigger problem.

Keep the earthworms – Earthworms are good in your garden. If you see them in your soil, you should be happy as they indicate healthy soil. Don’t remove or kill earthworms. You should keep your soil healthy by using the right fertilizers and also adding manure, leaves, and compost to it when needed.

Remove weeds often – Weeds can be unsightly and also cause some trouble for your plants. At times, they can add some beauty to your landscape depending on what type of weed it is. Check your garden regularly for weeds and use weed killers and fertilizers to protect your garden.

Take care of your statues and ornaments – Landscaped gardens often feature some statues or ornaments that add beauty and intrigue. These features are part of your garden and should be looked after just like you look after your plants. Wash them and rinse them often (about once a month should do) to keep them in a good condition and ensure they keep adding value to your garden.

Prune when necessary – Plants grow and may get out of hand and look cluttered if they are not trimmed regularly. Landscapers or garden services often take care of trimming, but if you want to do it yourself, you should keep a close eye to see when pruning and trimming will be needed. Don’t allow plants and trees to get out of hand as it will become increasingly more difficult to maintain them.

The basic rule to follow is to keep everything healthy, looking clean and neat, and taking care of all plants and also the features and furniture that form part of the landscaped area.

Top Ways to Improve the Exterior of Your Home

The exterior of your home should be just as important as the interior. The exterior also needs attention and care and sometimes even more so because of the wind, sun, rain, etc. There are different things you can do and look after when it comes to the exterior of your home. Have a look at our ideas and ways in which you can improve the outside of your home.

  1. Updating the roof can make a huge difference – If your roof is in disrepair or need some attention, it is one of the best ways to change the look of your home. If you can change the shape, the color, or the materials used, you can completely transform the roof and the look of your home.
  2. Change the front door – Changing or replacing the front door is one of the fastest ways to change the front of your house. You can replace the door with something completely new and different or you can just change the existing door. A new door can have a change in shape or the materials used. An old door can be changed by painting it or adding and removing features like house numbers, porch lights, handles, etc. A new door can even incorporate a window feature in it or to the sides of it. There are so many options.
  3. Cladding the walls – Homes that have stone cladding, mismatching bricks, or a mixture of materials, can be removed or re-finished. Depending on what the exterior materials are and the look you want to create, you can redo the exterior of your house by using different materials or paint.
  4. Add a new extension – Building a new addition to your home will drastically change its appearance and can even add some more functionality. You can add simple and quick things like a porch or small entry hall or you can add larger extensions like a sunroom, pool house, or an extra room. Most building will require permits, so you should find out what you ned in order to get started on your extensions. A new addition can be a great feature to improve the exterior appearance of your home.
  5. Replacing or updating windows – This may be a costly adventure but it can completely change the look of your home. If you can change the windows, you can make a whole new home. You can change the shape, the number of windows, the glass used, and you can add things like shutters, sky lights, or window boxes. All this will transform your window spaces and create a whole new look for your home.

Last, but not least, you can landscape your garden. You can either combine landscaping with one or two of the other options or just use it as its own improvement. Landscaping can be beautiful and will completely transform the way your home looks and feels. Now you have many options…where to start?